Project Showcase

Arunachala Siva Kadu Plantation

Navaratri 2005 by Apeetha Arunagiri

EPISODE 1

After attending the World Conference on Ecological Restoration in Zaragosa recently I was able to make a stopover visit to Arunachala. This visit was fortuitously timed for all us members of the Katthu Siva Plantation, because a long ugly drought had broken while I was in Zaragosa, so I arrived home much strengthened by the conference to find everyone else greatly uplifted by the filming greeness which thickened as we gazed on our replenished sacred mountain.

During this time spent by Arunachala I was an honoured guest of Sri Ramanasramam, which meant all the world to me. It was truly homecoming for me to reach the ashram, all formalities waived, everything more or less the same: such stability I’ve never known elsewhere in this world. The stream through to Pali Thirthum wasn’t running when I arrived although waterfalls were up the gorge, but it began to flow soon after.

My days were spent seeing everything that had been happening on the site during my absence of fifteen months, and working on the website to get it up before I left, managing all the images I was collecting, and meeting so many people for so many reasons - everything falling into place just as if it was all ordained, which of course it all is according to the prevailing mentality of such a sacred spot. Our people all looked very very good, much stronger and more confident than a year ago. This was wonderful to see. And the site also - although we did lose some saplings during the summer, still many that had seemed dead revived with the rains, especially the Boababs - they do very well. Ben arranged for seeds to be kept for us in the Botanical Gardens in Pondy on a regular basis. Since we are developing a good relationship with this centre it would be appropriate for the Katthu Siva group to visit these gardens one day in the near future.

The percolation pond that was made with machines by Forestry department wasn’t executed very well at all – the downhill wall was not reinforced properly and it was already showing signs of weakness after only a few months, but we’re planting on the slope hoping to strengthen it. The rock work done to strengthen the frog pond on the Vediyappan side was built carefully with our own hands; it looks great and the water is holding very well. We will deepen the pond when the next drought hits so that we have even more water holding capacity. The inner path road has to be detoured even now to accommodate the extra water, but that detour will opportunely take pilgrims past the sacred stone area which will soon have beautiful clay horses. We’d like to see two big horses and two little ones eventually and I would like the job of painting them; I’ll return to this subject later.

The plantation on the slopes has come up well; they’re all rising and shining now. Now we know who did actually die. Some more work needs to be done next summer to create many more check dams, we need to hold more water up high, for the mountain and underground water reserves, for us, and for wildlife. Pasupathiraj promised to send out their expert for a couple of hours per week to train our men in this work.

You should know that Pasupathiraj has been our most honourable and enthusiastic DFO for three years now; the effect of his presence is very clearly visible and enormously appreciated. He has been transferred just yesterday to Thirunelveli, but he will remain in touch with us and continue to influence the greening of the hill, I am sure. His term of office has been of inestimable benefit to the work and he has put many things into place to sustain this greening into the future. A group of us went up to see his wonderful plantation on the north end of the east face - extending from behind Pachamakovil up to the top. Ben and I were able to join him and his wife Verni, but Suresh Babu had to leave just as we set out. The morning was misty after a good night rain and it was utterly divine up there. The young saplings were all as vigorous as Pasupathiraj and the rock work on the cleverly placed checkdams was very impressive. Pasupathiraj’s infectious positive attitude has manifested itself here; it does now seem true – as he claims - that this greening process is unstoppable.